Government Problems Regarding Security Stem from Secrecy

By Matthew Harwood

Pierre Thomas, a ABC News reporter, told attendees of ASIS International's 26th Annual Government/Industry Conference on Global Terrorism this afternoon that terrorism is a story the nation cannot lose sight of.

Thomas,  whose stories regularly appear on "World News Tonight with Charles Gibson," "Good Morning America," and "Nightline," said there's a natural tendency to become complacent about terrorism as 9-11 fades from the collective memory.

He said one story he covered that once again showed terrorists still threaten the United States was the August 2006 transatlantic plot to blow up ten airliners with liquid explosives. The plot led to the much maligned ban on liquids on board commercial aircraft, which was loosened in September 2006.

A year later, Thomas reported how Sandia National Laboratories followed the terrorism suspects' formula for liquid explosives and produced a forceful enough blast capable of bringing down a plane. (Watch the video here.)

Thomas explained that he had to convince the government to declassify the Sandia video of the liquid explosive tests, but said "releasing that information was helpful in the long run" by demonstrating to the flying public that carry-on liquid rules were instituted for their safety.

Many public relations problems the U.S. government experiences comes from its predilection towards secrecy. Thomas says releasing more information, like the Sandia video, helps educate the public about the genuine threats it faces. (After the government banned liquids on board commercial aircraft, the government was roundly criticized and ridiculed for overreacting. For an example, click here.)

Thomas also made the democratic argument that "a government that keeps things in the dark is not one I want to be apart of." He alluded as well to his own self-interest saying, "as a reporter, I'm always going to advocate more information."

Getting more serious, he argued that evidence has shown that al Qaeda is a scholar of America. Referring to the general media as well as himself, Thomas said, "We're not telling [al Qaeda] anything they don't already know" about our national security.

What concerns Thomas today is the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that told of terrorists training in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

"Where did the people that trained go?" he wondered aloud.


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